How to Pack a Self-Storage Unit

Frank Lanigan
Researcher & Writer
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Edited By Sarah Cimarusti
October 29, 2022
5 min read

At a glance

While scoping out your new home, you may realize that you have more furniture than space and need a self-storage unit. After comparing storage unit companies and figuring out what size storage unit you need, your next step is packing the unit with your belongings.

It can be tempting to start filling the unit immediately, but a little planning can go a long way in protecting your items, saving space, and making sure your belongings are quickly accessible. These four tips will help you perfectly pack your self-storage unit:

  1. Protect your furniture
  2. Properly box your items
  3. Put your largest items in the back of the unit
  4. Create walking lanes

4 tips to correctly pack your storage unit

Protect your furniture

When you’re packing your self-storage unit with furniture, there are a few things you want to check before loading. For the most part, you want to treat your self-storage unit like a moving truck or container—with a few key differences:

  • Cut down on plastic packing materials: If you’re renting a self-storage unit, you’re probably planning on keeping your furniture there for an extended period. Warping or melting can occur when plastic is exposed to heat and humidity. If you’re going with a climate-controlled storage unit, this won’t be a problem.
  • Don’t tape your furniture: For a similar reason, you don’t want to apply moving tape directly to your furniture. The adhesives in the tape and heat can damage the wood finish when it’s time to unpack. Even in climate-controlled units, it’s not a great idea. Instead, apply tape to your moving blanket to ensure minimal damage and maximum security for your furniture.
  • Try to keep heavy furniture on its feet: Heat, humidity, and time can do some serious damage. Wooden furniture can sometimes slightly warp if the item’s weight is distributed unevenly. For prolonged self-storage stays, pack furniture as it naturally stands.
Climate control can prevent damage to your stuff

Tip! If you’re worried about damage to your furniture in an outdoor storage unit, check out pricing for the best climate-controlled storage units.

While it takes a little more time, lightly wrapping your furniture in a moving blanket makes a big difference in maintaining the condition of your belongings. Be careful not to wrap too tightly so that furniture doesn't warp during its stay in the storage unit!

2. Properly box and stack your items

Luckily, the process of packing and stacking doesn’t change much between a moving truck and a self-storage unit. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Keep the heavy boxes near the bottom of stacks: This rule is just as important in a storage unit as it is on the back of a moving truck. If you plan on renting the storage unit for a long time, heavy boxes will crush lighter boxes below them, creating a falling hazard.
  • Spend a few more cents for heavy-duty boxes: When packed well, most boxes will hold up fine for most of your belongings. For fragile or heavy items, try going for heavy-duty or specialty options.
  • Keep the contents of your boxes (somewhat) organized: When it’s time to retrieve your items, missing labels or mixed up belongings will create a headache—especially if you’re looking for something specific.
Info Box

Need to save some money on boxes? Take a look at some ways you can find cheap or free boxes near you.

Even though packing can be a pain, you’ll thank yourself later. Because your stuff may sit for a while, it’s likely that you’ll forget exactly what and where those key boxes are. Labeling boxes or even creating a little map of your storage space will save you tons of time on the back end.

3. Put your largest items in the back of the unit

This tip will work for most people, but there are exceptions. Keep in mind that your storage area is your space, so you should pack it however you like. For example, if you’re renovating and anticipate needing a bookshelf in a couple of weeks, it wouldn’t make sense to put it in the very back. If you think you’ll need an item soon, keep it near the front of the self-storage unit.

You’ll want to consider this tip mainly for ease of access. If your heavy, bulky items are near the door of your storage unit, you’ll need to move them to get to smaller items. By packing your storage unit in ascending order by height, you’ll be able to see just about everything when you open the doors.

Light Bulb
Are you nervous about your items being in storage?

All storage units require insurance, but options vary by company. You may also be able to use your homeowners or renters insurance or go through a third-party. Learn more about storage unit insurance.

4. Create walking lanes

This tip is another must for ease of access. Understandably, you’ll sometimes need every inch of space your storage unit offers. If you can manage it, creating walking lanes will help you or your movers to quickly access items throughout your unit. Many moving companies charge by the hour, so a faster move means more money in your pocket.

Just like in the above tip, start by lining the back wall of your self-storage unit with your large, blocky items (think mattresses, box springs, and bookshelves) and then begin to make your way towards the center of the unit with smaller and smaller items. This will give you clear sightlines to just about anything in your storage unit. Use the hollow spaces of those larger pieces to store your small boxes or knick-knack items. Stack as much as you’d like, but keep the light items on the top of those stacks.

The takeaway

It’s tempting to throw your extra items in a storage unit and lock the door as quickly as possible, but a little care and planning will protect your belongings and save you a headache when it’s time to retrieve them. If you’re planning on renting a storage unit for an extended period, invest in higher-quality packing materials that are suitable for your needs. Heavy-duty boxes and non-plastic alternatives will give you peace of mind and keep your furniture in good condition.

Packing a self-storage unit FAQs

What should you not pack in a storage unit?

You’ll want to avoid packing any perishables, hazardous materials, or highly sensitive items in your self-storage unit. While most storage companies offer strong security against thieves, it’s best to keep any extremely valuable or sensitive items elsewhere.

Do I need a lock for my storage unit?

You absolutely need a lock for your storage unit. There are several great options, but remember some locks perform better than others. Take a look at’s top picks for best locks for storage units.

Will electronics get ruined in a storage unit?

Electronics are more prone to damage due to humidity and harsh outdoor conditions. Luckily, we have a guide to help you keep your electronics safe.

Do I need climate-controlled storage?

If you live in an area with high humidity and you plan on storing for extended time, climate-controlled storage is the best move. Sensitive items such as electronics, instruments, and antiques are much safer in climate-controlled storage.

Will clothes get mildew or mold in storage units?

Clothes are much more likely to develop mildew and mold in an outdoor storage unit. If you’re using outdoor storage or a portable storage container, make sure your clothes are fully dry before packing. Additionally, vacuum sealing your clothing will prevent any mildew or mold from developing.


Think a portable storage solution is right for you? Learn more about which of the best moving and storage container companies would work for you. 

Frank Lanigan
Written by
Frank Lanigan
Frank Lanigan is a writer and internationally-published journalist who has over a decade of experience in the moving industry. With thousands of completed moves under his belt, Frank hopes to bring years of experience to and help readers to navigate moving day with ease.